A few weeks ago the J-S launched a redesigned Web site. There's nothing special about the new look - it's sleek, the colors are dulled down and blogs are featured more prominently. (The only thing I don't like is NewsWatch off to the right side. It feels dismissed there ... I liked it better front and center.)
But one significant change for Racine is Racine is no longer included on the site. On the old JSonline, Racine had its own section with a link on the front page. On the new site, Racine is no where to be found.
It's not much of a surprise given the J-S's decision to shutter its Racine bureau in Sturtevant. But the state's biggest paper - and the dominant source for news in southeastern Wisconsin - appears to have abandoned all Racine coverage.
At RacinePost, one of our daily jobs is to aggregate Racine news onto our front page. It's our effort to bring all of the stories about Racine into a single place, making it easy for readers to checkout what's going without visiting the individual sites themselves.
Lately, we've noticed fewer Racine stories online. Part of that comes from the J-S's decision to abandon our community. The loss of the weekly section has weakened news coverage in Racine, and left the JT with minimal competition. We work to offer a credible alternative to the local newspaper - given the stories they get from us, it's clear 212 Fourth St. is one of our key audiences - but we're not a full-time paid staff (at least not yet). So the loss of the J-S and its dedicated staff is an unfortunate blow to Racine. Add in the JT's shrinking space - and, one has to imagine in the current economy, it's soon-to-be shrinking staff - there is less oversight of our community and many fewer stories about the people living here.
You're reading our solution. RacinePost tries daily to offer competition to the established newspaper. It's my sincere hope others will take up the same banner and try to do the same. Maybe someone along the way can figure out how to make some money and we can return to an era when five, six, even 10 newspapers competed for readers.
If I had control over the JT, I'd split employees into competing groups and have them fight for readers. There would be 4-5 separate news sources under the JT banner, and the daily paper would be a composite sketch of everyone's work. Successful reporters would be rewarded with bonuses and more resources to report the news. Unsuccessful reporters would be shown the door. (Note to Rick Parrish: This model would work. Feel free to call me for the plan.)
The competition model works in the news business. It pushes everyone to work harder and write better stories. It's also a lot more fun. The loss of competition in Racine media is worrisome. Working in a vacuum, you believe you're doing a good job regardless of what you're actually doing.
So rise up Racine bloggers and reporters and take on the news of the day. Do it in your own voice on your own timeline. There's nothing special about being a reporter, you just have to take a few minutes to research and write. So start a blog and give it a shot. You just may be the one to save our daily newspaper.